In the midst of the 1980s, women’s rights and their fight for liberation surged with the rise of radical movements and protests. Alongside the overwhelming amount of support for the women’s movement, the plea for conservatism attempted to stifle the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) for women and attempted to bring back the traditional views of femininity. In Feminist Fantasies by Phyllis Schlafly, Schlafly strives to convince Americans the importance of motherhood and how “feminism is doomed to failure because it is based on an attempt to repeal and restructure human nature”.1
Media has always been a key aspect of society, especially as a catalyst for people to express their feelings about humanity. Feminists in the 1980s combatted against the display of weak female characters in the media and their heavy dependence on men. However, when an opera introduces a strong female character with almost masculine characteristics, Phyllis Schlafly proves the abysmal reviews it received by saying about the character, “There is nothing wrong with portraying a female character who is nasty, sullen, and mannish. But you can’t show a character as irresistible to men, because she isn’t”.2 Phyllis Schlafly analyzes how media portrays women and how unfit it is for women to be shown as people they are not. Since people have integrated media into their daily lives, Schlafly believes that if the media portrays women incorrectly, women will have false hopes of an icon they will never become.
Along with the media, careers between men and women have always been a heated debate during the time when women moved away from the sphere of their home and toward a new life of working. Phyllis Schlafly ridicules the idea of women getting equal pay to men because, “the average man has far more work experience and seniority on his present job [and] the average woman has been in her present job only half as long as the average man”.3 Not only does Schlafly derides the notion of women trying to achieve equal pay with men but the whole notion of women working instead of being at home, taking care of the children and the household. According to Schlafly, “the average woman still will not achieve the heights of career and financial success that the average man does…because…men have wives”, and women need to support the family towards success.4
Feminists regard marriage as restraining, suffocating, and overall something that needs to be reformed. However, Schlafly rebuts by saying, “feminism is incompatible with marriage and motherhood” and ultimately their whole life.5Marriage is tied closely with motherhood for women and to disregard marriage as a light subject not only affects women’s relationship with men but as well as disrupting the cycle of new generations of children and grandchildren. Schlafly notices how feminism cannot become a “substitute for marriage” and that “faith, commitment, hard work, family, children, and grandchildren, still offer the most fulfillment” for women.6Throughout much of the book, Schlafly overlooks feminists’ point of view on the restraining aspects of marriage and focuses on the beauties of marriage, security, comfort, and how much support it can offer to women, men, and children alike. She mentions the importance of unity with family when someone is there to support and give which can only come from women and their sacrifice for the family.
With the rising number of women entering the work force, the military, as well, has changed with more women hoping to join the fight with men. Schlafly emphasizes the need for women to stay away from combat because, “American culture will not accept the image of men at home while women go off to fight the enemy”.7Society will be impaired if the number of women being drafted in the military continues to rise, Schlafly counters, and will cause long-lasting disadvantages for family ties and statuses between men and women. In order to convince people to disregard the ERA’s plan of creating a balanced playing field for both men and women, Schlafly makes sure to touch upon the important aspects of what it means to be a woman and how it affects others around them: the media, careers, marriage, and the military.
By writing Feminist Fantasies, Schlafly hopes to conduct ample evidence in order to show the need for women to cease their pleas of equality and turn back to their traditional ways of living. Not only does Schlafly counter a feminist view of life, she also explains what it means to be truly feminine, not a feminist: “She does not seek her fulfillment at the price of taking benefits away from others, as the feminists are forever doing”.8During the 1980s, a time when women were starting to realize the oppression posed on them from society, a wave of liberalism began to spread, hoping to swamp over the opposition of conservatism. Schlafly, among the conservatives, hopes to achieve traditional values of women through Feminist Fantasies.
As a heavily conservative woman, Phyllis Schlafly was among a minority who tried to maintain peace through stability with traditional views of women. Having six children of her own and being a full-time housewife, it is reasonable that she felt threatened by the mass of changing views of feminism. Although she led a successful career by being a lawyer and business woman, she still said while writing Feminist Fantasies, “What I am defending is the real rights of women. A woman should have the right to be in the home as a wife and mother”.9Since 1972, Schlafly has been a leader of the pro-family movement and had actually led the movement to victory, along with the rejection of the ERA. Because of her passion for driving away what she thinks are false feminist ideas, she was encouraged to write her opinions through books such as Feminist Fantasies, The Flipside of Feminism, and, A Choice Not An Echo.
In a review by Steven Martinovich, a freelance writer in Ontario, he writes on how passionately Schlafly addresses the issues of feminism, but also criticizes her overly biased views on what it means to be a woman. He mentions how Feminist Fantasies is, “an interesting argument but it may be Schlafly’s weakest one. She fails to consider that we, to paraphrase a famous declaration, are all feminists now”.10He argues how differently times have changed since the 1980s, as his review was created during 2003, around the time Feminist Fantasies was published. Martinovich mentions how societal expectations have changed in all areas that Schlafly has touched upon whether it’d be marriage, careers, military, or motherhood and that the book is somewhat outdated. Martinovich understands the purpose of writing Feminist Fantasies as women were just beginning to sprout from the surface of oppression, and comfort seemed to be the only escape back. From an open perspective and approach, Steven Martinovich is able to understand Schlafly’s defense of traditionalism and how it affected the women’s movement and the ERA in the 1980s as a whole.
On the contrary, a review by Ann Coulter, a heavily conservative women, expresses the same views as Phyllis Schlafly. Admiration and praise for Schlafly covers most of her review of how much she has achieved in her life and her fulfillment with the failure of the ERA. No criticism, only praise, coats Coulter’s review in a severely bias way. In her appearance in the foreword of Feminist Fantasies, she says, “Schlafly is brilliant, beautiful, principled, articulate, tireless, and most important, absolutely fearless. And, as this book demonstrates, she is always right”.11Every aspect of what Schlafly presents in Feminist Fantasies seems to enlighten Ann Coulter and follows closely to Coulter’s own opinions of feminism. She mostly uses extreme language to express the severity of how wonderfully Schlafly’s views coincide with her own. In contrast to Martinovich’s open views, Coulter focuses on one side of Schlafly’s books and takes it whole-heartedly without much thought on feminist’s side as well. Her opinions are mostly biased and solely influenced from her own experiences and life.
The 21st century vibe is all about change and moving away from traditional views of societal norms. Whether its race, gender, or sexual orientation, all are taking steps, no matter how small, toward a future of equal integration. However, Feminist Fantasies tries to do the opposite by resisting change and keeping old traditions. Schlafly’s voice is passionate and almost reasonable, taking care in not only focusing on one major point but every major point that affects a human life such as marriage. Despite maintaining a convincing resonance throughout the book, Schlafly repeats the same points over and over again, sometimes out of order and without much concise organization. Some of her evidence seems to be drawn from her own opinion without evidence to fully balance the argument such as, “Feminine means accentuating the womanly attributes that make women deliciously different from men”.12Since time is always progressing, so are perspectives of society such as the fine line between femininity and feminism. Today, Feminist Fantasies does not hold as much weight as it had in the 1980s since more and more oppressed groups are continuing to break through the shell of traditionalism in the modern era.
Although Feminist Fantasies might be from a different time period, Phyllis believes that the ideals of femininity must not change and that women’s roles should be stable and never altering. The 80s, especially, a time when women was still learning new societal opportunities such as new job advantages, Schlafly was influenced to write Feminist Fantasies from the amount of women, “[wanting] to change human nature, social mores, and relationships between men and women”.13 In an attempt to preserve traditions, Schlafly ridicules feminists dreams of being liberated and setting themselves free of stereotypes. No matter the amount of feminists wanting to change society, she writes her opinions to show how important it is that they don’t have it their way. In her opinion, “When a wife and mother spends her time in the home rearing children…she makes the greatest contribution to a healthy society and to the future of our nation”.14 Even after the failure of the ERA, Schlafly fights not only during the 1980s but for the future generations as well. By rooting out the early seeds of disillusionment, Schlafly realizes she can reshape the generation before the seed begins to grow to chaos and discontent among humanity’s progress toward perfection. By writing Feminist Fantasies, Schlafly hopes to tap into feminists that their ideals are moving in the wrong direction and the only way to go back to the right direction is progressing with the idea of motherhood instead of liberation.
This book tries to counter the 1970s liberalism to revert back to a period of conservatism in the 1980s. Teeming with ideas of conservatism, this book shows social conflicts between old and new, like how Schlafly shows marriage as enlightening and prosperous, contradictory to the new liberalist ideas of feminists who dream of change and breaking chains of restraint. Phyllis Schlafly also points out economical ways that women joining the workforce is unfit and improper. In a political stance, Schlafly goes over military codes of how women are incompatible with the harsh and severe jobs of combat. Schlafly draws out not progressivism but the regression back to old ways of women and follows the idea of liberalism converting into conservatism. By eliminating positive aspects of the ERA, Schlafly is able to control her usage of conservatism and move away from feminist’s goals of liberation. In concern of the changing ways of women joining the workforce and ultimately altering economy as a whole, Schlafly points out, “anything’s possible, but a woman who tries for both at the same time should know in advance that it is a high-risk lifestyle and be prepared to pay the price”.15Since women were prepared to move toward more liberal ideas of the workforce, Schlafly prevents further thought by moving back to more conservative outlook.
Prior to the 1980s when women hoped to gain liberation through opposition, Schlafly attempts to stifle those cries through her own voice in Feminist Fantasies and how the twisted perspective of feminists detriment society and everyone around. Although heavily biased, an outlook on what anti-feminism was, shows insight on how duality between tradition and change resided in the 1980s through conservative people like Schlafly. If it meant guiding the feminists again toward the right path, Schlafly insists of the wrong lens feminists use when seeing success and fulfillment and helping them understands what their real goal is in life: marriage, motherhood, support, and comfort. Schlafly believes, “Our society does, indeed, face many problems, and many less fortunate Americans need a helping hand of one kind or another”.16
1. Schlafly, Phyllis. Feminist Fantasies. Dallas: Spence Pub., 2003. Print. 41.
2. Schlafly, Phyllis. 28.
3. Schlafly, Phyllis. 111.
4. Schlafly, Phyllis. 64.
5. Schlafly, Phyllis. 155.
6. Schlafly, Phyllis. 157.
7. Schlafly, Phyllis. 193.
8. Schlafly, Phyllis. 255.
9. “Phyllis Schlafly Bio.” Eagle Forum. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2016.
10. Martinovich, Steven. “Feminism’s Tireless Opponent,” 2003.
11. Schlafly, Phyllis. 6.
12. Schlafly, Phyllis. 16.
13. Schlafly, Phyllis. 153.
14. Schlafly, Phyllis. 105.
15. Schlafly, Phyllis. 17.
16. Schlafly, Phyllis. 239